This delicious heritage recipe for Southern Sweet Potato Casserole starts with a smooth, buttery layer of cooked sweet potatoes and is topped with a simple pecan streusel. It’s a side dish worthy of supporting the turkey and cornbread dressing at any southern holiday table.
There’s always that one recipe that’s sure to turn heads at a holiday party and that’s my Southern Sweet Potato Casserole with its pecan streusel topping. Maybe that sounds a little boastful, but believe me, this recipe will have all your guests raving!
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There’s none of the gift buying and giving pressure that there is for Christmas, the decorations are beautiful without being over the top, and the whole day is all about food! Even more than that, the idea of setting aside a day on which to just be “thankful” is humbling.
We may grumble about our situation sometimes, we may look at what others have accomplished with just a tinge of “wishfulness,” but if we truly look around we’ll find so much for which we should give thanks.
When I get around to planning this year’s Thanksgiving menu, you can be sure it will include my classic Southern Sweet Potato Casserole. It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving here without sweet potatoes in some form and this casserole just happens to be my favorite.
This is the same basic recipe that my mother has served for years. Some people like theirs topped with marshmallows and some with this pecan and brown sugar mixture. I like both!
❤ Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- It’s a sweet, nutty, buttery indulgent side dish for your holiday feast.
- Very easy to make. The hardest thing about this recipe is stopping yourself from diving in before dinner is served.
- It can be made ahead of time. You can make the base and then reheat it with the pecan topping on the day you’re serving.
🍳 Equipment You’ll Find Useful
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🥘 Ingredient Notes
- Sweet Potatoes – May be stored in a cool, dry place and should last for 10-14 days. Choose ones that are firm and have smooth skin without any cuts or bruised spots.
- Butter – You’ll need butter for both the potato mixture and the topping.
- Light Brown Sugar – Also used for both the filling and the topping.
- Milk – I recommend whole milk. For even richer flavor use half and half or light cream.
- Egg – The egg is necessary both to bind the ingredients together and to give a little fluffiness to the filling.
- Vanilla Extract – McCormick is an always dependable brand.
- Chopped Pecans – Add a lovely crunch and nutty flavor to the casserole topping.
🔪 How to Make Southern Sweet Potato Casserole With Pecan Topping
- Place the sweet potatoes in a deep pot with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook 40-45 minutes or until tender.
- Remove them from the water and allow them to cool enough to handle. (I slice them open to hurry the cooling process.)
- While waiting for the sweet potatoes to cool, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and generously butter a baking dish.
- Peel the potatoes, place them in a mixing bowl, and mash.
- To the mixing bowl, add the softened butter, light brown sugar, milk, egg, and vanilla.
- Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
- Spread the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
👉 PRO TIP: If your sweet potatoes are still quite warm, wait until you’ve beaten them for a minute or so before you add the egg. This will help keep the egg from cooking in the heat of the sweet potatoes.
- In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to combine the ingredients for the topping.
- Sprinkle evenly over the filling mixture.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
🕒 How To Make Ahead
To make ahead, cook and mash the sweet potatoes and add them to the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Mix the pecan streusel and store it in a separate zip-top bag. When ready to cook, bring the potatoes to room temperature, add the topping, and bake.
🍚 Storing and Reheating
Completely cooled leftovers may be refrigerated in airtight container for up to three days. To freeze, place the casserole in an airtight container and store it in the freezer for up to one month. Reheat in the microwave.
🔀 Variations for Special Diets
Dairy Free: Substitute the milk and butter for either coconut milk and butter or dairy-free margarine.
Gluten Free: Use a flour substitute like chickpea, almond, oat, or rice in the streusel topping.
❓ Questions About Sweet Potato Casserole
There isn’t much agreement between online sources as to what constitutes a “medium sweet potato.” I generally consider about 6 to 8 ounces per sweet potato to be a medium size. For this recipe, you’d need to purchase about 20 to 24 ounces total weight of sweet potatoes.
In the United States, we often use the terms yam and sweet potato interchangeably. They are, however, two completely different foods. Yams usually have dark brown skin and light, almost white flesh where sweet potatoes have reddish skin with golden yellow to orange or pinkish flesh. You’re unlikely to find actual yams in a supermarket produce section.
You can use canned sweet potatoes in this recipe, but there will be subtle differences in taste. For this recipe, you’d need at least two 16-ounce cans of candied yams (not yams at all – see above), well drained. You’ll also need to adjust the sugar because the canned yams will already be sweetened. I recommend Bruce’s brand for canned, candied yams.
Yes, you can! But be sure to use a light touch. Sweet potatoes have a very delicate flavor and adding too much spice will mask their natural sweetness. If you want to add some spice, try a little cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom, or a bit of pumpkin pie spice mix. Add a little to your sweet potato mixture, have a taste, and adjust as needed.
HAVE YOU TRIED THIS RECIPE?
I’d LOVE to know what you thought!
Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked it!
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Southern Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping
- 3 medium sweet potatoes
- ¼ cup softened butter
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the topping:
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup chopped pecans
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon softened butter
- Rinse the sweet potatoes to remove any residual dirt. Place them in a deep pot with enough water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a high simmer and cook for 40-45 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender.
- Remove the sweet potatoes from the water and allow them to cool enough to handle. (Slice them open to hurry the cooling process.)
- While the sweet potatoes cool, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and generously butter a baking dish.
- Peel the sweet potatoes, place them in a mixing bowl, and mash using a potato masher or large fork.
- Add the softened butter, light brown sugar, milk, egg, and vanilla.
- Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
- Spread the sweet potato mixture into the prepared baking dish.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the topping. Use a fork to mix well.
- Sprinkle the topping evenly over the sweet potato mixture.
- Bake for 30 minutes in the 350 degree preheated oven.
- The recipe easily doubles to serve a larger crowd.
- If your sweet potatoes are still quite warm, wait until you’ve beaten them for a minute or so before you add the egg. This will help lower the temperature and stop the egg from cooking in the heat of the sweet potatoes.
- To make ahead, cook and mash the sweet potatoes and add them to the baking dish. Mix the pecan streusel and store it in a zip-top bag. When ready to cook, bring the potatoes to room temperature, add the topping, and bake.
- Store, covered in the refrigerator for up to four days.
- The cooked casserole can be cooled and frozen. Cover well and freeze for up to three months. Let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating and serving.
Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.
— This post was originally published on November 18, 2014. It has been updated with new photos and additional information.